London Trip 2009: Part 4

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The first and only stop today was The British Museum (site). And honestly, one day was not enough to cover even half of this museum as the museum has over 7 million items in its collection.

The entrance of The British Museum.

The museum came into existence because of Sir Hans Sloane who started the collection. He also brought drinking chocolate back to England.

Inside the Great Court. The glass ceiling lets light through so not much artificial lighting is required during the day.

Totem pole at the Great Court.

There was an exhibition on Moctezuma, the Aztech Ruler. Unfortunately photos weren’t allowed in that exhibit. Moctezuma was the last ruler of the Aztech. He was kidnapped by the Spanish army when they came and there was nothing much they can do since the Spanish army had guns while they were still using spears and shields. You can read more about his death and the Spanish conquest here.

Rosetta stone.

This is a very important piece of stone. With this stone, we managed to unlock the history of an entire civilization. Before this, no one knew how to read Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. But since the Rosetta stone contains a single passage written in 3 languages, a translation could be made by comparing them.

Builders in ancient times like to decorate their buildings with carvings and drawings. Take the Parthenon for example. It was decorated externally with frieze and metopes. And inside are stone sculptures, some of which are now on display at the British Museum.

Part of a sculpture from the Parthenon.

Carvings became more and more lifelike and realistic.

Art progressed from very basic and simple representative drawings to pictures or carvings that gave a sense of depth, perception and motion. These subtle changes can be seen as a civilization became more advanced and modern. This progression is what makes us special. We are constantly improving ourselves towards perfection. If we didn’t progress throughout the ages, you’ll still be reading this on a clay tablet.

I wanted to give them RM5 as a sample because our RM5 incorporates a plastic transparent window as a security feature. But I kept all my Ringgit at home.

An exhibition on Money takes us through the history of money, how people progressed from using shells to plastic as form of payment. Machines that print or mint coins are also on display. And also security features of money. People have gone the extra mile to ensure that money cannot be easily reproduced.

This is one side of the mold for a 1 pound coin.

That’s HALF A TRILLION (500 BILLION) Zimbabwean dollars. And guess how much it’s worth? 0.5 Malaysian sen. HALF a sen. You need a suitcase of these to buy bread.

Internal workings of a mechanical clock.

Right beside the money exhibition was an exhibition on clocks. Mechanical clocks of all sizes and construction were on display. And some of them were even moving so you can see all the internal workings of the clock! There are a few really ingenious designs. But of course, none came close to having the accuracy nor simplicity of the modern quartz controlled clocks that we have today.

This is a very interesting clock. It utilizes the duration required for the ball to travel from one end to the other to keep time:

I also skimmed through the Mummy gallery. Not exactly a big fan of mummies, but it’s interesting to see how they preserve the bodies. The brain comes out through the nose by the way.

A Mummy.

Interestingly, they mummify cats too.

Next: The National Gallery. London Trip 2009: Part 5 Continue reading

London Trip 2009: Part 3

Back to London Trip 2009: Part 2

Sel and Joel decided to wake up early for mass at St Paul’s cathedral so I get to sleep in late at Sel’s house. So when I got up at around 9 something I went to find Joanne and knocked on the wrong room. Sel’s housemate who came back early morning didn’t know I was bunking over so it was not a pleasant surprise.

Showered and went to Fay’s place which was about 5 minutes down the road. Got lost on the way but thank God for free internet and Google Earth. Then I traveled with Fay down to South Kensington and met Sel and Joel at a coffee shop. Hot coffee and cold mornings make a very good combination. Thanks Fay!

Tickets to the Cocoon. Although it’s free, they still require you to “purchase” tickets.

The Cocoon at the Charles Darwin Center is a place where specimens are stored. Here you’ll learn how they name species, preserve them and catalog them for the benefit of future researchers. Sometimes they will send out these specimens for other scientists to study.

Giant mosquito model will suck your blood dry.

I was actually more intrigued by their interactive displays. Most are touch based and doesn’t seem to be using a camera to detect where your hand is. So I concluded that the surface that they are projecting on must be touch sensitive. The whole exhibition is highly interactive and it encourages a lot of hands on which really helps the learning process, especially with younger visitors.

A turtle’s backbone is fused with its shell so you can never see a turtle without its shell. Damn cartoons.

I didn’t manage to cover the whole Natural History Museum. There simply wasn’t enough time. I would probably need 2 days just to see everything there. We did go through some of the mammals section and also the large hall where the blue whale and its skeleton are displayed.

If you take a blue whale out of the sea, it will be crushed to death by its own weight due to the lack of buoyancy.

Sel suggested we go over to the Museum in Docklands to learn about the history of London. And since she had tickets entrance would be free. The museum is near Canary Wharf tube station.

The Museum of Docklands is actually housed in an old warehouse building that was once used to store goods carried by ships from all over the world. The multiple gates on each floor speeds up the process of unloading the ships’ cargos.

London came into existence when the Romans set up a settlement by River Thames. It was known as Londinium during that time. Eventually London grew as its port became increasingly busy with ships coming in from all over the world. But London’s history wasn’t all smooth sailing. There was the Great Plague, the Great Fire of London, and then there were the World War bombings. Life was pretty hard during those times.

Slaves used to work in lucrative sugar cane plantations to produce sugar. On the left side of the wall are names of the ships that carried slaves. Yes, the slave trade was huge.

Overall the museum was a great eye opener. This is one museum not to be missed if you want to know how London came about. There are a lot of things to see. And I found out plenty that I didn’t know about London. Especially the slave trade, and how people coped during the World War. We are indeed lucky to be living in a relatively peaceful world now.

Glass buildings around Docklands. It was dark when we got out even though it was only 4:30pm.

During winter it gets dark very early. So it seemed like the day progressed at a very rapid pace. Very hard to get used to this. And dark means cold so it was time to say goodbye and head back to Golders Green for a scrumptious dinner and a warm bed. Not to mention defrosting in front of a fireplace. Oh, the perks of winter!

Next: More museums! London Trip 2009: Part 4 Continue reading